Tod Kennedy,  May 20, 2000

Main points of application or “So what?” from Acts 16

  1. Remember to follow up with new and young believers whom you have started in the Lord and in the Word.
  2. We often make divine guidance a guessing game; it is not. God guides us through his Spirit, by his written Word, by controlling circumstances around us, by us thinking about what his will may be, and by our prayer for guidance.
  3. Demons cannot indwell believers but they can influence our thinking and decision making. Drugs, alcohol, emotionalism, idolatry, and cult activity can put us in a place where we may be more susceptible to  demon activity.
  4. Evangelism and Bible teaching ought to have as high a value and priority to us as they did to Paul and Silas.  Periodically we ought to ask ourselves how we value evangelism and Bible teaching and then adjust our lives accordingly.
  5. How do we relate to undeserved suffering? Undeserved suffering because we are believers is our privilege and opportunity as members of Christ’s body. Peter tells us to rejoice and that we are blessed through this suffering (1 Peter 4.13-14).
  6. Always make the gospel accurate and clear. Say what you mean and mean what you say. “Believe on the Lord Jesus” is the challenge to the unbeliever.

Summary Outline

  1. Acts 16.1-3.  Paul, on his second missionary trip, revisited Lystra where he met Timothy, who was a believer in Christ (2 Timothy 1.5; 3.14-15). Timothy’s mother was a Jewish believer and his father, probably deceased, was a Greek and likely an unbeliever. Timothy had a good reputation among the believers of Lystra and Iconium. Paul recognized that God had gifted Timothy for spiritual leadership and communication of the Word. Paul wanted to take Timothy on as a team member, but he anticipated possible trouble because Timothy had both Jewish and Gentile parents. To prevent the false issue of circumcision from deflecting or distracting their ministry to Jews, he circumcised Timothy before they left town.
  2. Acts 16.4-8. God the Holy Spirit clearly guided Paul, Silas, Luke, and Timothy to Troas which is on the northeast Aegean coast. There were many places in which they would have liked to teach the Word, but God kept pushing them north and west. Along the way they did revisit believers in cities along the route of their first missionary trip. The Holy Spirit kept them from going into Bithynia in the north and Mysia to the northwest and Asia in the west.
  3. Acts 16.9-12. One night, when Paul was at Troas, God instructed him through a vision to go to Macedonia and there spread the gospel and teach Bible doctrine. The missionary team went to Macedonia, a Roman Imperial province. They visited Philippi, a Roman colony named for Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. They next visited Thessalonica, the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia. From there they went, in a great hurry because of the riot, to Berea.
  4. Acts 16.13-15. Luke wrote that on the Sabbath day Paul went to a place outside the city gate where people gathered, instead of going to the synagogue; he wanted to speak to whomever gathered there. Lydia was among the crowd to whom Paul preached. Luke, by calling her a “worshipper of God,” noted that she was God-conscious and interested in knowing more about God. She had passed through the first stage, God-consciousness, and was now ready and willing to hear the gospel. Lydia listened to Paul speak about forgiveness of sin and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. As a result she believed in Christ. Apparently her family was there also and they trusted Christ as savior. Paul then baptized them.
  5. Acts 16.16-24. While Paul was evangelizing and teaching at Philippi, a demon possessed servant girl, who made money for her masters by telling fortunes, made a nuisance of herself to Paul and his team. He finally commanded the demon to leave her. This, of course, meant a loss of revenue to her master, and her masters had Paul and Silas arrested. They charged that the missionaries were throwing the city into confusion by spreading illegal propaganda. This was, of course, false but he had aroused the local citizens so much that the authorities had the missionaries beaten. This was illegal to do to Roman citizens. The authorities did not know it yet, but Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. The authorities then put Paul and Silas into prison—“locked and stocked.”
  6. Acts 16.25-28. Paul and Silas did what strong believers ought to do when in undeserved suffering—they continued to live the Christian life (1 Peter 2.19-21; 4.12-16). The men applied by faith their learned Bible doctrine. They prayed and sang hymns of praise to God. The jailer and the other prisoners heard them and probably wondered “What God do they serve that they rejoice in Christ even when they are unjustly treated?” At that point God caused an earthquake that shook the prison so much that the cell doors opened and the prisoners’ chains broke. The guard, who had been sleeping while on duty, realized that he was responsible if the prisoners escaped and so his only choice was suicide. Paul yelled at him “Don’t do that. We are all here.”
  7. Acts 16.29-34. This was too much for the jailer. He wanted to know about this salvation that Paul had been speaking and singing about. He asked the most important question that anyone can ask: “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answered with the only possible answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved.” Paul’s answer was crucial. We ought to give the same answer when we tell people how to gain eternal life. Instead, believers often answer with a confusing and incorrect message. The jailer believed in Christ as savior and immediately he was made a new creature in Christ and given eternal life (2 Corinthians 5.17). When the jailer was off duty he took Paul and Silas home with him, where they witnessed to his family who also believed in Christ as savior. Paul baptized the entire family and then they celebrated.
  8. Acts 16.35-40. Paul and Silas returned to prison with the jailer. The next morning the authorities ordered the missionaries to be released. At that point Paul made known their Roman citizenship; their rights as Roman citizens had been denied. A Roman citizen was not to be flogged, beaten with rods, or crucified. Why did Paul choose this time to announce his Roman citizenship? He did not want to leave the impression that Christians were a rebellious sect. Paul wanted the authorities and the citizens to know that Christians were not troublemakers of any kind and that they were not a danger to Rome. Christians who were also citizens of Rome deserved protection under Roman law. The missionaries left not as a group of rebels or criminals, but as lawful citizens who were believers in Jesus Christ and as Roman citizens who possessed the rights, protection, and honor of Roman citizens.
  9. Acts 16.40. They last thing they did before they left Philippi was to visit Lydia at her house. There they encouraged the new believers with their testimony about God’s faithfulness and a challenge to grow in their new faith.

Dictionary of Bible Doctrine

  1. God-consciousness and gospel hearing identify the two stages of thought and decision that a person goes through before he believes in Jesus Christ as savior. God-consciousness is the stage when a person knows that God exists.  The age that this occurs varies with individuals and cultures. God has made it possible for every person to arrive at God-consciousness through natural revelation and through special revelation  (Romans 1.18-32; Psalm 19.1-6; Acts 14.17; 17.22-24,28; Colossians1.17; Titus 2.11). If, after God-consciousness, that person desires to have an eternal relationship with God through faith in the only savior, Jesus Christ, God will reveal the gospel to him—give him gospel hearing—so that he may believe, if he chooses, in Christ as savior and so become a child of God and possess eternal life  (John 7.17; Acts 17.26-27).
  2. Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are biblical names for different kinds of songs that believers sing. Psalms (yalmo~) are Bible words put to music. Examples are “Holy, Holy, Holy” from Isaiah 6.3 and “The Lord Is My Shepherd” from Psalm 23. Hymns (umno~) are doctrinal words put to music and addressed to God. Examples are “How Great Thou Art,” “Revive Us Again,” and “God Of Our Fathers.” Spiritual songs (wdh pneumatikh) are doctrinal testimonies addressed to oneself and to others. Examples are “O For A Thousand Tongues,” “Onward Christian Soldiers,” “Victory In Jesus,”  and “He Lives.”
  3. Roman administrative authority extended far beyond the city of Rome. Though Augustus did not originate the administrative system, he did give careful attention to it. Rome administered the lands that were not a part of the physical city by designating them as provinces,  territories, or  colonies. All fell under Rome’s administrative authority. The provincial system had two kinds of provinces, imperial and senatorial.  There were thirty-two provinces when Paul made his missionary trips: twenty-one were imperial provinces and eleven were senatorial provinces. An imperial province came under the direct control of the emperor. These provinces were in newer and more unstable areas of the empire. The emperor appointed a governor or imperial legate who served until death or until the emperor removed him. The emperor paid the governor a salary and  commanded just treatment of the people. The emperor also stationed  Roman legions in the provinces to keep peace and to protect Roman interests. Imperial provinces included Bithynia, Pamphylia, Galatia (with Lystra, Pisidian Antioch, and Iconium), Cappadocia, Syria (with Tarsus, Damascus, and Antioch of Syria), and after A.D. 70, Judea. A senatorial province was governed by the senate through a proconsul, who served a one year term. The emperor kept a watchful eye on the senatorial provinces. The proconsul had a small military force at his disposal. Senatorial provinces included Crete, Macedonia (with Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea), Achaia (with Athens and Corinth), and Asia (with Ephesus as the capital city). Territories were foreign lands ruled by a client-king. Often provinces began as territories. The king, later on, yielded the territory to Rome. Galatia, Cappadocia, Bithynia, Pamphylia, Macedonia, and Achaia began as territories. A Roman colony was a small piece of the city of Rome that was geographically separated from Rome; Luke correctly records that Philippi (Acts 16.12) was a Roman colony; Augustus had granted colony status to Philippi. The Roman colony policy began very early with groups of 300 families sent to garrison coastline cities. The colony policy changed over the years; political reasons surpassed strategic reasons and colonies were used for emigration of common folk or veteran soldiers. Colonies helped to Romanize native communities and to protect Rome’s interests. A colony was a small copy of Rome.
  4. Undeserved suffering is pressure, pain, ridicule, injustice, and any harassment that a Christian faces because he is a believer in Christ or because he is living in a way that pleases God. Genuine undeserved suffering comes upon us because we are believers in Christ and are living the Christ-like life: by faith, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and according to the Word of God. Undeserved suffering is part of a believer’s supernatural Christian life (2 Corinthians 6.3-10). Undeserved suffering is not caused by personal sin, spiritual immaturity, or failure to apply Bible doctrine. Paul and Silas were witnessing about Christ and teaching Bible doctrine in the city of Philippi. Even though they both were Roman citizens and had broken no law, they were falsely accused, beaten, and imprisoned—because they were believers in Christ and living in a way that pleased God (Acts 16). Paul, during his first Roman imprisonment, continued to live occupied with Christ and ready and willing to carry on his God given ministry (Philippians 1). His faith in God and God’s word continued to clothe him and to encourage him during his second Roman imprisonment, even though he knew then that he faced physical death because he was a believer and living  Christ’s kind of life (2 Timothy 4.6-8). Believers who endure undeserved suffering through faith application of the Word of God are living examples of God’s grace, and this kind of life pleases God (1 Peter 2.19-20). When we endure undeserved suffering because Christ’s kind of life is living out through us we ought to rejoice; we have been granted a great privilege (1 Peter 4.13). We also are being blessed because the Spirit of God’s glory, the Holy Spirit, is at that time abiding in us (1 Peter 4.14). We ought to continue to live God’s kind of life—the Christ-like life—through the faith application of the Word of God, even if it brings more undeserved suffering on us (1 Peter 4.19). We have God’s promise that he is working his good out of hard circumstances (Romans 8.28), that he is on our side (Romans 8.31), that he will provide all the spiritual resources we need (Romans 8.29). God honors with the crown of life those who continue to live the supernatural Christian life while enduring undeserved suffering (Revelation 3.10).